So this past Sunday was a landmark in Eric’s training.. His first open water/ocean swim. part of deciding to do Ironman was also acknowledging one of Eric’s fears. Large bodies of water and sharks.. namely.. being eaten by a shark. He often talks about this jokingly – but it is truly a fear of his and Eric is a man of few fears.
He knew that by deciding to do Ironman’s and Tri’s in general, it would mean swimming in the ocean… there could be a few ways around this.. but ultimately – it would cause him to meet and over-come this fear…. so Eric did what he does best.. sucked it up and jumped in with both feet… literally.
As someone who was born and raised in Santa Cruz, CA and as a daughter of a surfer – I grew up playing in the Pacific Ocean – Swimming, boogie boarding, attempting to surf.. I would often swim out to my dad and his buddies while they surfed at Scott’s and Waddell and remember being called shark bait.. especially since we were so close to Ano Nuevo and I didn’t have a board… just a figure in a wetsuit, that under the right conditions – looked very much like a seal… These were the moments that I became acutely aware of just WHERE I was swimming or playing….but as a teenager I think you brush it off… probably like most of the young ones who grow up in beach towns…
However… as a mother and a partner… Sunday was a different type of feeling. I found myself in this very odd place… one of being SO EXCITED for Eric to be taking this step.. to be over-coming his fears and accomplishing his goals – Being HIS CHEERLEADER.. and the second of being TERRIFIED for him… because as a rational person who grew up in the water and whose father had grown up in the water and whose friends can count dozens of surfers – some of whom surf all over the world and do so professionally… NO ONE had ever been bitten, let alone eaten by a shark.. but as the mother of his children and as his partner… I worried about the slightest of possibilities… not only the fear of sharks (as there had been a shark vs. kayak just a couple of miles down the coast) but the fear of knowing that the ocean can be unpredictable.. knowing that I have lost several friends who were experienced watermen and women – many who made their living surfing, life-guarding and living daily in the ocean… and here I was cheering on the father of my children and my love to go jump in! that “everything would be fine”… whilst I slightly held my breathe knowing that even though the possibilities of anything going wrong were slight… they were still there.. lurking in the shadows.
I try to not live my life in fear or even the “what-if’s”… I lived my life like that for far too long.. and now that we have this deep contentedness and happiness… my fear is that it could come shattering down… and while I do a pretty good job at stuffing that fear into the corner… there are moments that I feel it… the feeling of not being in control of the inevitable. My favorite quote of the day came from telling Eric that he was “not allowed to make me a widow before he made me a wife“… For those that know us… this is a pretty remarkable statement in more ways than one 😉
So.. with all of THAT internal dialog going on we arrived at Sunday! I think Eric was excited and nervous and even scared as hell at one level.. and I was the same… but we loaded up his swim bag, wetsuit and gear.. then we loaded up the youngest girls, snacks, a bucket and shovel and then we loaded up mommy’s camera gear… we took our time to find parking and allow Eric to get into his gear and relax a bit… being on edge is never good… We found a spot on the beach and waited for his swim coach.
We found Jane O’Connor at Simpkins Swim center and she is a highly regarded swim coach and has participated in multiple endurance events; including Tri’s and Ironman.. When Eric began this journey he really felt that he needed to surround himself with pro’s… not just jump into a Master’s class and go.. but try to build a solid foundation. Jane has been instrumental in that. She took a fairly natural athlete who grew up swimming and water skiing in lakes and has turned him into a swimmer and has helped him lay the foundation for being a solid triathlete swimmer. Eric’s lessons are usually in the pool but with Jane about to relocate to the East Coast, he was able to convince her to give him an open ocean lesson.
We are so thankful for this. Eric said it best when he said that he felt safe in the water with Jane… and this was priceless for me – the last thing I would want is to be standing on the beach with our daughters and have something happen to daddy. So Jane arrived (right around the same time as my sister and nephews) and it was go time. Jane gave a quick strategy and over-view of what to expect and they were off…. It was a VERY cold and foggy morning.. even by Santa Cruz standards.. and Eric did GREAT!
They got used to the water and the buoyancy of the suits.. Eric LOVES his TYR Hurricane Category 5.. He said that it kept him really warm for the most part and really functioned well… it was flexible, non-chaffing and never restricted his stroke… and then they were off to the first Buoy and then swam between the two first buoy’s.
My sister came down to the beach to join me and to allow our kids to play… she also helped me track Eric and Jane so one of us had eyes on them at all times.. She being there also meant that there were eyes on our 3yr old and 5.5month old at all times..along with her twin 2yr old boys… So Eric and Jane had a full on cheering squad. I did tell you that we make it a family affair.. which means we join Eric during his training when we can!
It was a great day and Eric and Jane had a great swim. Eric’s swim has gone to the next level… he has swam and swam well in the pacific and guess what… he didn’t get eaten by a shark (though he did run into the buoy and came out with a “baby shark bite” on his finger.. as we all call the cut he ended up with…He’ll do it again next week… and then it will be upstate NY lake swimming for the next part of his training!